The Presidential Range, seen from the summit of Mt. Avalon, April 2015
|Drive||105 miles (1 hour 50 minutes)|
The Presidential Traverse is one of the greatest hiking challenges New Hampshire offers: over 22 miles in one non-stop trip, covering more than 11,000 feet of elevation gain, and passing over 8 4000-footer mountains, including the highest peaks in the Northeastern US. Even in summer, this is a dawn-to-dusk trip; it is not recommended that it be attempted in winter. Beginning with an overnight at Billings Lodge to avoid an early-morning drive is highly encouraged. Be prepared for long and difficult hiking, but spectacular views all along the ridge of the Presidential Range. Checking weather before hiking is critical; do not even attempt the trip if it looks unfavorable, as winds above treeline in the Presidentials can easily exceed 100 miles per hour and hypothermia is a danger even in summer. Also be sure to have a plan in the case that an injury or other emergency occurs partway along the traverse, and descent must be made at a different location than planned.
This trip will require two vehicles, one at each end of the traverse. Hiking North-South is recommended due to decreasing difficulty and the proximity of Billings Lodge to the North end.
Park one vehicle at the Highland Center at Crawford Notch: Take I-91 North to exit 19, I-93 South to exit 40, and Route 302 East through the intersection with Route 3; the Highland Center will be about 10 miles farther on the right. If staying at Billings Lodge, park one vehicle here the night before the trip.
Park the other at the Appalachia Trailhead: from the Highland Center, take a left and follow Route 302 West to the intersection with Route 3. Turn right onto 3 North, then right again onto 115 North, and right at the intersection with Route 2 onto 2 East. Follow this for about 5 miles, and turn right into the Appalachia parking area.
Returning, pick up the other vehicle and return by the same route (2 West, 115 South, 3 South, 302 West, 93 North, 91 South).
Follow the Valley Way trail about 2.5 miles, then turn left onto Watson Path. 1.5 miles farther is the summit of Mt. Madison. From here take a right toward the Madison Springs Hut, and then either follow Star Lake Trail to the left to the summit of Adams, or continue on the Appalachian Trail about 0.4 miles farther, then turn left toward Adams' summit. From there, take the Westernmost trail to connect to the Gulfside/Appalachian Trail, and turn left to follow this West toward Mt. Jefferson. After about 1.7 miles, turn right to reach the summit of Jefferson. Continue South to return to the Gulfside/Appalachian Trail toward Mts. Clay and Washington. From the summit of Washington, take the Crawford Path/Appalachian Trail Southwest to Lakes of the Clouds. About 0.1 miles farther along this trail, turn right to summit Mt. Monroe and continue over the summit to rejoin the Crawford Path/AT. Turn right on rejoining the trail to continue Southwest, and follow the Crawford Path/AT over the summits of Mts. Eisenhower and Pierce. From Pierce, follow the Mizpah Cutoff to the hut, and continue Southward to Mt. Jackson. Continue along the Webster Cliff Trail to Mt. Webster, and then head North along the Webster Brook Trail. Turn left onto the Webster-Jackson Trail and hike about 1.5 miles to the Highland Center.